With discussions of the timing of Kris Bryant’s eventual call-up reaching a national fever pitch in the last two days, complete with silly people saying silly things that expose their lack of understanding of the basic rules and issues at play, it was inevitable that Bryant’s agent would speak out.
And, since Bryant’s agent is the biggest agent in the game, a guy with a vested interest – and lengthy background – in railing against the rules that affect the timing of Bryant’s free agency and call-up, it was inevitable that Scott Boras would make sure he went the full nine yards when he did speak out.
So it was in comments to Ken Rosenthal and Bob Nightengale, with Boras accusing Cubs ownership of demanding that Bryant be held down for service time reasons. That is, of course, an hilariously absurd claim if you actually take a moment to think about how the Cubs’ baseball side operates under the Ricketts Family. Tom Ricketts is not calling down to Theo Epstein to tell him to make sure and keep Kris Bryant in the minor leagues for a few weeks in April. Neither is Tom Ricketts calling down to Theo Epstein to tell him to make sure and have Kris Bryant with the team on Opening Day because Ricketts thinks Bryant is ready. I’m almost tripping over my words to type those sentences because they are so ridiculous. Ricketts trusts Epstein to run the Cubs’ baseball operations. Might Ricketts be consulted when Epstein wants to commit $155 million to a free agent? Yeah, maybe (though Ricketts seems more likely to help recruit that very player than to inject his opinion on how much money the player is worth). But on the timing of a call-up of a 23-year-old prospect? That’s all Epstein.
Whatever Boras actually believes about the Cubs, specifically, and Kris Bryant, specifically, you have to understand that this is all theater. I don’t know if Boras believes what he’s saying about the Ricketts Family, but I do know that he doesn’t like a system that artificially depresses the earning power of his clients, and he’s using this as an opportunity to (1) keep the spotlight on the service time issues in the CBA, (2) pressure the Cubs a little on Bryant, and (3) get some free advertising for his services. In each of those capacities, Boras is simply doing his job, and I don’t blame him.
Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, who reiterated to Rosenthal and Nightengale that the decision on when to promote Bryant is his own, played his own part in the dance, saying what you’d expect. Epstein told Rosenthal: “Kris Bryant’s development path has absolutely nothing to do with ownership, period. As with all our baseball decisions, I will determine where Kris begins the 2015 season after consulting with members of our baseball operations staff. Comments from agents, media members and anybody outside our organization will be ignored.”
Everyone is simply playing his part.
And then there’s the guy who is actually at the center of all of this, Kris Bryant, who could play some third base again later this week after giving his shoulder some time to rest. Because he hasn’t been able to get a lot of reps at third base lately (or experiment in the outfield yet), the Cubs will have a ready-made baseball reason to give him a little time at AAA Iowa to open the season (together with the other most logical non-service-time reason: they have their own roster sorting to do, and Bryant isn’t yet on the 40-man, which affords them a little extra leeway to do it). Epstein even essentially conceded that Bryant was ready for the big leagues offensively, but he needs more work defensively. If he has time to get it in before Opening Day, Epstein told Rosenthal, then maybe he’ll break camp with the big club. If not, he won’t.
Bryant will be up soon enough, hitting bombs and playing adequate or better defense somewhere, and this will all move to the background. Well, after another wave of acrimony and pageantry when he’s cut from big league camp at some point.